Growing up as the oldest of six kids, life was fast, loud and often messy. I don’t know how my mom did it. Since the six of us were spread out over one and half decades (I’m 14 years older than my youngest sister), we were all in different stages of life at any given moment. When I was a teenager, two of my siblings were still in diapers.
This is often the case for girls from large families. I’ve found that girls with lots of siblings immediately connect over similar family experiences: rambunctious dinners, McDonald’s dollar-menu outings and the painful family road trips where everyone’s elbows are in everyone’s way. Here are seven things girls from big families know to be true.
1. You are the official family babysitter.
If you’re the only girl or one of the older kids, you were probably recruited as the family sitter. This obligatory role only sometimes results in compensation. If you typified the usual eldest child, authority may have been payment enough (my authority was eventually revoked during a mutiny by my younger siblings, who demoted me and elected my second sister instead).
2. Having the bathroom to yourself is a rare privilege.
A friend of mine once said she can’t use the toilet in the morning without simultaneously brushing her teeth, because her formative years were spent sharing a bathroom with all four of her siblings. If you want to get your turn, you have to multitask! Many of the best conversations my sisters and I shared took place in our communal bathroom. Many of our best fights also took place in that bathroom (usually in response to someone dumping ice water over the shower curtain), but that’s beside the point.
3. Family dinners are so loud, the neighbors think you’re hosting a party.
If your family regularly ate together like mine, chances are things got loud. When you have six to 10 people all vying for conversation space, there’s going to be some crossover. There will also be a lot of interruptions, possibly some perturbed whining and a shout or two. There were times our neighbors stopped by during mealtime, afraid to disturb us because they thought we were hosting company. Nope—just a bunch of kids and their parents discussing politics at dinner.
4. Going anywhere as a family requires a minimum of a Suburban—and maybe a 12-passenger van.
The definition of “big family” varies, but to definitely qualify as a human herd, your parents likely owned a Suburban or large van. Somehow, even with this amount of space, little brothers still can’t keep their legs and arms to themselves. No one ever wants to sit in the “way back,” either—particularly in the middle, where you’re susceptible to sibling elbows and car sickness.
5. Your parents are constantly asked, “Are they ALL yours?”
If you were old enough to remember, you probably do: standing in the grocery checkout line gripping mom’s cart with a train of sisters and brothers not far behind. The clerk looks down and you can see her counting. “Are they all yours?” she asks your mom, who smiles as if this isn’t the 2,000th time she’s been asked. “No, I’m borrowing them from the Human Society,” she replies. (Not really, but she probably thought about it.)
6. “Family vacation” means 10 hours in the car with no leg room and dollar-menu snacks.
That Suburban your parents owned? You know it inside and out. Flights get expensive with four or more kids, so family vacation probably took the form of a road trip (“educational,” if you were homeschooled). My own family grew up in northern Michigan, so to get anywhere important, we drove a minimum of five hours (and up to 24, as in our multiple trips to Florida). At some point in these trips you probably experienced:
- Roadside potty breaks
- Rest-stop romps
- Roadside disciplinary sessions
- Sibling falling asleep on you
- Roadside puking sessions
- Making a bed in the “way back” (shhh, don’t tell!)
7. Your family is big, loud and close—and you wouldn’t have it any other way.
Big families are a lot of work. Our siblings irritate us, we fight and our parents are often exhausted and overwhelmed. But at the end of the day, your loud, huge family is one of your favorite things in the world. You wouldn’t grow up any other way.